SYKESVILLE — The Hawk Ridge subdivision on the outskirts of town is a product of 1980s philosophy of building: big homes on large lots with wide streets.
But when the visitor turns onto Spouthill Road and starts intothe older heart of town, the scene changes. Compact houses, varying in style and size, landscaped with trees and shrubs, sit closer to the road and each other. Neighbors can still have a chat outside their back door.
In an effort to return to the small-town character of Sykesville,the Planning Commission has written new guidelines for developers.
A draft of the Small Town Planning Guidelines will be presented to the Town Council at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Town House. The public is invited to attend and comment on the guidelines.
"We wrote these guidelines to help developers make nicer developments," said Councilman and Planning Commission member Jonathan Herman. "This is happening all over the country. Developments are being designed with narrower streets and smaller front yards to slow people down and get them to walk.
"The development is built for people rather than for cars," hesaid.
Commission members started rethinking building designs lastsummer after attending a seminar with Randall Arendt, a renowned rural town planner from the University of Massachusetts.
Among Arendt's ideas are narrower roads, reduced front yard setbacks, connecting streets and open spaces in communities.
"He stressed analyzing thesite and determining its best features regarding trees, slopes, vistas, and setting those aside for the community, then placing in building lots and roads," said Helen Spinelli, county planner liaison to Sykesville.
The guideline draft includes:
* A flexible formula for determining the number of dwellings to be built in a specific area,preferably in a cluster design, with homes closer to each other and to the street.
* Criteria for the preservation of natural featuressuch as slopes, tree stands and wetlands.
* Design standards for a connecting grid pattern of roads and sidewalks.
"We're going back to a socialized environment where you can say hi to your neighbor once in a while," said planner Vincent DiGiovanni.
* Criteria for preserving historic, architectural, archaeological and cultural structures as much as possible.
* Wildlife management and preservation guidelines.
* Open space requirements. The planners are requesting that 40 percent of a development be reserved as open space for the community.
"Forty percent is a figure being used in other communities, and that's what we'd like to achieve," said commission chairman Dennis Karr.
* Non-residential uses in communities, a throwback to the days when people could walk to school or a nearby mom and pop grocery store.
The guidelines allow such businesses as bakery shops, fruit and vegetable stores, antiques or crafts shops, art studios, bedand breakfast inns and schools.
Karr urges residents and developers to attend tomorrow's meeting and voice their opinions on the guidelines. The Planning Commission wants to present a final draft to the Town Council May 11 for a public hearing and approval.